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Ron Howard Talks New Luciano Pavarotti Documentary

If one is an anomaly, two are a coincidence and three are a trend, then Ron Howard might strictly become a music documentarian after “Pavarotti” hits theaters.

The documentary about the world-famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti comes on the heels of Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” and “Made in America,” a look at Jay-Z’s music festival of the same name.

“Look at the way music has become so important in the medium in general, whether it’s scripted or documentary. I think it’s something to rally an audience around. Technology is such that we can offer a kind of concert experience,” Howard told Variety at a screening of the film on Wednesday at CAA in Los Angeles. “Our intention was to make this as much of an opera as it a human-interest story about Pavarotti.”

The director remarked that last night’s screening was the first time he was seeing his project without a pencil and paper in hand, jotting down notes about what to tweak in the film. He could finally enjoy the chronicle of Pavarotti’s life from his early childhood to his rise to global fame through his powerful singing and philanthropy. Throughout the doc, interviews with the singer’s family and colleagues and behind-the-scenes footage are overlaid with his most recognizable performances, like “Nessun Dorma” and “O Sole Mio.”

“He’s so charismatic and there’s so much spirit around him. That seemed to find its way to this audience,” said Howard. “It was an early goal to tell the story in a way that I wanted it to be an opera about Pavarotti using the arias that he performed so brilliantly.”

Howard reunited with his producers from “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” to bring Pavarotti’s life to screen. Beginning to tour internationally, the opera singer became a worldwide sensation after his performance of “Nessun Dorma” with his Three Tenors members José Carreras and Plácido Domingo during the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Pavarotti then began using his fame for charitable causes, raising money for international aide in a series of benefit concerts. He headlined shows alongside Bono, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and other music icons. Before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2007, the singer sold more than 100 million records and performed in front of millions of fans in sold-out shows around the world.

In the early ’80s, Howard and Pavarotti briefly crossed paths at a publicity event with his “Happy Days” co-star Henry Winkler.

“[Winkler] was always very great about not being too shy. He took me and marched us up there and found Pavarotti and introduced ourselves very briefly,” Howard recalled. “The charisma was apparent. He was the star of the night.”

While making the documentary, the director also grew a sudden fondness for opera, similar to how he started following Formula One racing after making “Rush.” His voice, however, doesn’t match up to Pavarotti’s legendary pipes. “If I could sing as well as he does, I wouldn’t be a director, that’s sure,” he said.

The screening last night was hosted by Richard Lovett, Rob Light and Sir Lucian Grainge. A CBS Films Polygram Entertainment Brian Grazer presentation, “Pavarotti” is an Imagine Entertainment and White Horse Pictures production and will be in theaters on June 7.

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